The Abusive Ape Theory, in Pill Form

I’m a moron, because it took me my entire fucking life to figure it out, but I’m going to see if I can fit it into a tweet.

The “consequences” parenting construct is the child-rearing model for warrior societies, possibly meaning for human societies, albeit with exceptions. The efficacy of our consequences has always been debatable, but the evidence of the effects of abuse are clear, and it is these effects that human parents can and do create in our children. This is the power of nurturing and of parenting. This process I call antisocialization, our socialization to the dark side of things, our fears, our hate, and our violence. The truth behind the “consequences” social meme is that we are self-actualized warriors, that we discipline our children for reasons that some of our fathers told us: we deem ourselves to be too nice, and we have learned that abuse toughens us up. In genetic terms, we have learned to operate our own epigenetic levers, the ones that respond to adverse, abusive environments. Antisocialization Theory says that Christian Original Sin is a part of the “consequences” social construct and that in reality, humans know themselves to be too nice by our natures to compete with the neighbors, that indeed, we are born sinless.

Jeff

May 19th., 2017

It’s a Child’s World

. . . yeah, I probably don’t mean that the way you’d think.

This isn’t that the children are our future, or that we are only renting here and giving up our damage deposit when that was supposed to be for them instead. I’m talking, as usual perhaps, about the Nurture Assumption, and today more about the book by Judith Rich Harris than the assumption itself.

Ms. Rich Harris has the most wonderful writing voice. I imagine any man or reasonably flexible woman who has read her has fallen in love; I certainly did. So, the nurture assumption, that we all assume that we mould our children somehow into acceptable adults is the primary proposition in the book, but it is perhaps the second largest point in it that it seems to be our childhood peer group that moulds our personalities instead. Now, I’m ignorantly arrogant and suspicious, so I haven’t quite made my mind up about that bit just yet, there may be more to it, but if it’s true, or mostly true – and it is, at least mostly – then human culture is children’s culture, right? Or rather, human culture is developmentally arrested at some point in childhood.

Ladies, I have to ask – does this strike a chord, a feminist chord? Haven’t you always known you’re up against grown men’s bodies inhabited by the souls of angry young boys?

The basic, aboriginal scenario she described (from many years of reading and writing textbooks on the subject) is a village of sixty to a hundred and sixty people, perhaps three main family lines, and mothers having babies every two or three years – at which point the previous child is weaned and let outside to join the children’s group. Here, we learn and grow, and graduate to have our own children. Adult personality testing shows our grown personalities to show far more conformity with the children’s peer group than with our parents.

Sometimes if we’ve only just heard this, I imagine it takes a second to sink in, but another way to state the scenario Rich Harris describes (I don’t think she put it this way), is this: we are somehow immune to intergenerational learning and we mostly don’t know a thing that every child doesn’t know. Maybe we can learn throughout our lives (I hope so, I’m about to retire and planning to keep trying), but our ability to pass it on to children is severely impeded once we are of breeding age ourselves!

Now, I think that’s a sort of an argument for a general cause to support some vague idea of our adult “children’s culture,” but I have something of my own to add, namely that the means and ways of this “influence” and “socialization” that happens in the children’s group happen to be the same ways and means that parents are so valiantly trying to justify with the nurture assumption: abuse. Abuse in a generic sort of sense, sure, but in all senses.

We can say that parents use rough methods at home and that the children perhaps emulate, or we can say that the parents have only just exited the children’s group where that was the way of life as well, the ways and means of conformity and organization, and that they simply carry on as they always have in the group, albeit with younger children for perhaps the first time. It’s a circle of life sort of thing. Personally, I have chosen to blame the parents for this vicious cycle, because for the most part they are older and closer to some definition of legal responsibility – but also, because we have been trying to get the kids to stop hitting each other for years already and that just isn’t working out! I think we should try stopping the adults, see if that works better.

That was a bit of me, but really, that is the implication of the children’s peer group, has to be, right? That the social pressure during our formative years, that the society this testing shows we conform to is the society of pre-pubescents. There’s a nibble for the biologists in it, too. Part of the theory is that your parents aren’t so likely to beat you to death as the peer group is, because the gene relation is closer, so that we conform to the bigger threat, the more realistic threat. The Nurture Assumption spelled it out graphically in terms of hunter-gatherer warrior societies, where if a boy won’t fight, he is tormented until he either fights back or is killed. One presumes there are very few adult pacifists.

Perhaps it’s not so sad that we are living a life designed and enforced by children because of their inexperience, but rather that the structure of our society is formed from experience that includes a lot of boyish competition and violence. I’m not sure about that, and this is absolutely a thought in progress . . . I’m postulating this, the eternal children’s group and the associated adult “children’s culture” – and a different, first generation adult culture in every generation? Again, we can learn, it’s only that adults can’t teach kids, at least not social things. But the eternal, timeless children’s culture of might is right (and sex doesn’t matter?), the unconscious side of our culture, and the adult side where things change and evolve . . . ?

I think I’ve taken this as far as I can . . .

Cheers, folks.

Thoughts?

 

Jeff

April 28th., 2017

Next Question?

            Next Question?

 

The last one took me something more than fifty years, admittedly. I am a moron, no two ways about it. But I got there, and frankly, I’m, well . . . proud might be a bridge too far, and happy isn’t it either, but I’m . . . satisfied. In that sense, I declare myself to be a scientist, albeit a moron. It’s not about my emotional needs or pride, it really is about the question. The question for me, since I was a toddler or something, was “what is punishment?”

I’ve answered that to my own satisfaction, and it’s in my blog, the stuff from this year, 2017. Unfortunately, figuring something out about ourselves and being able to do anything about it are very different propositions. The solution seems to be locked away, hidden behind the dynamics of stress, and for a change, before I try to work through it in the privacy of my own mind and blog with a view to figuring it out in my final fifty years from nothing, I thought I’d better stop and read Sapolsky’s book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”

He’s brought us a nasty little maxim, that stress results from taking a beating and is released by giving one. Again, I am a moron with no sense of my own limitations, so I don’t understand “maxim.” I see that label, “maxim,” (I don’t think he’s called it that) and double Scorpio that I am or whatever, I say to myself, it is up to me to solve this puzzle. I don’t know why, it’s to avoid thinking about my personal self and problems, of course, but I can’t get around it. I would rather think I’m trying to save the world and solve the human condition than that I’m doing something smaller and more doable and ignoring the big, universal problems. I’m living a big, public life, at least in my own mind.

So, I’ll be reading for a bit, trying to learn instead of talking for a bit. Dr. Robert Sapolsky is sure to have something to inform my search. He’s terrific on video too, I recommend him as highly as possible, as does everyone, from a moron like me all the way up to the very best and brightest. I’ll be checking in, but I see my views have stopped. I don’t have the heart to keep promoting on Twitter, punishing my few followers by spamming them with the same blogs for months on end with nothing new, so that will be sporadic unless I think I’ve had another epiphany or something.

Please enjoy this year’s stuff, the “Better Metaphor” series, etc.

The stuff from 2014 and 2015 is for parents, new parents, it says, “don’t punish, in any way, at all,” citing damage and hard feelings as unwanted consequences. This year’s stuff says, “uh, no, the damage and hard feelings are in fact the unconscious but wanted consequences,” and so re-defines the problem of punishment. I still don’t advocate for the punishment of children, I’ve just come to understand it’s not a rational, debating sort of a thing.

I’ll be back, and dropping in, but I think I’ve kind of run out of things to say for a bit, this was it. I’m not some writer, some endless spout of verbiage, I’m just a guy with a minority POV and an idea I think will help us, so I write that. I swear to God, it’s not about me. It’s about us. It ain’t personal, it’s about all of us; it’s public.

Thanks for visiting, Folks. I wish I could know what anyone thinks, though.

 

Jeff

April 20th., 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Reality. A Better Metaphor, Part Eight.

I’ve been going on about this idea, the social meme or metaphor, what Benjamin David Steele (https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/ @MarmaladeSteele ) calls a social parasite, although that sounds like a person. It’s a solid point, though, so perhaps it should be ‘parasitic social metaphor’ or something. That’s going to have to be close enough, because it’s these parasites that have their way with labels and not the other way around. I haven’t yet gotten back and read Dawkins’ definition myself, because the concept of the parasitic meme fills an irregularly shaped hole in our knowledge perfectly and so its shape seems to reveal itself; if you get what it does, then you see what it is. I don’t see how it couldn’t be real, or at least how the parasitic metaphor isn’t one of the better metaphors we have.

So, I think I’ve beaten the consequences meme into the ground in this series, ‘A Better Metaphor’ and today I would like to concentrate on the moral kernel of it. I think the world has turned on this “good and bad” thing.

I’ve talked around it a little maybe, but I’ve tried to say that the sort of “good” an organism can have beaten into it will be a response to what a beating is and not to what the organism delivering the beating may hope he’s achieving, meaning stress and pain and a need to either avoid them or at least unload the stress after the fact. Further to that, I’m trying to paint a picture of a near-universal human adaptation, that violence at home helps to support warrior societies against their warrior neighbor societies, keeps them strong and fighting, and so, beating their children is a “good” thing, because what could be more “good” than surviving the bloodthirsty apes next door? It is my position that this was our original foray into sculpting our children, the one that worked, that this has always been our proof of the “nurture” principle. The reason the socialization researchers haven’t found their evidence is because they’re looking for something “good,” maybe prosocialization, something like that. Our theory seems to be that parents did something “good” that worked at some point in the past, so now we can’t help but believe in the positive power of “nurturing,” but that it just can’t be found anymore? No, this is the secret: we’ve switched what is generally “good” in our minds between when we started this behavioural adaptation and now.

Now this conversation can take a hard left turn.

Trouble is, it’s still what we believe, deep down: pain is good, stress is good, and a “good” person is an antisocial one.

That is the fascist manifesto.

I think it’s all our built-in manifesto, or perhaps it’s only built into our cultures, or the parasitic social meme, but that in peacetime we live in a sort of balance, and when war and/or fascism looms, the balance has been lost and a sort of a positive feedback loop results. When that violence-masking consequences meme takes over, when peaceful memes fade, then we become caught responding to all problems with a single answer, the consequences. I can’t say why it may ever not happen with this model, but it seems clear that when the problems you are trying to solve are antisociability, then bringing the consequences only makes it worse. People start to get angry, so they lash out, angering one another further, and we get the picture: it’s a race to the bottom. It’s Jacob’s Ladder, but the stuff’s in the water. But this is fascism, and this makes everything that the current administration does make sense. Antisocializing is the purpose behind all their trolling, both rhetorical and legislatively homicidal.

Pain is good, stress is good, and a “good” person is an antisocial one.

Again, true enough and important in our evolving and aboriginal situation, so we believe it, deep down. This is how the president has gotten a pass so far: the strongman, the disciplinarian, the authoritarian promises to make things “good” with exactly the meme’s meanings and he is delivering, daily. We are confused, we can’t glean his meanings, what is it we’re supposed to do differently so he stops with the threats and punitive bills? It doesn’t matter, they are using the abuse as evolution uses it, to drive us to madness, violence, and war. It is antisocialism as bare as it can be: no-one can make the sense in it. The only operative thing must be the subtext, the abuse, the fear, and the bad feelings. No matter where it comes from, if we receive stress, we must unload it somewhere, whether we want to or not, so this administration’s torments drive even the pacifists inexorably closer to madness and therefore to war.

It was indeed shocking when American evangelical Christians continued to support the now-president after the recordings of him bragging to the reporter about his casual sexual abuse came out, but there’s a lesson in it. Sure, on the face of it, sexism, plain and simple, but sexism serves antisocialization when that is the dominant social meme and not the other way about, this president clearly hates women, but there’s more – he only like white people too. If the white folks like the evangelicals want their strongman, their white warrior king to fight the brown tide, then his accusers, the women who came forward to attest to his predatory behaviour must also be punished, shunned, shamed and so antisocialized. They were abused already (all we know about them, abused by the now-president), but not abused enough, because they were trying to hurt the white warrior king’s chances for election, they were positioned against the hoped-for race war, they were peaceniks, weak links that wartime cannot afford. Abuse solves everything. As Rich Harris described among the Yanomamo (and other warrior societies, I think), boys who do not fight are tormented until they do or they die; it’s antisocial or dead in warrior societies, and either result for Forty-five’s accusers would serve the war effort better than holding their strongman to the law.

It’s not a happy story, but happy stories, like our metaphor about consequences bringing civilization, make for unhappy realities. We can hate and revile, we can call the voters who invited fascism into the light names like evil and such – I mean, it’s hard not to, same as it is for them, social groups are almost all human beings have for morality – but we need to understand what’s at work too. This isn’t just politics, or the adversarial courtroom process, I mean it is, it’s metaphors in competition – but it’s also real life. Maybe if we get a little closer to it, the truth can settle the argument.

 

Jeff

Mar. 18th., 2016

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Seven – the ‘Abuse Truth.’

Here’s the way I’ve been expressing what I consider to be the dominant social construct/metaphor/meme around our parenting:

. . . that story, about what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences . . .

And I’ve tried to make the point that each of the myriad of things we humans learn are not all survival/genetic continuance issues and that the true function of the consequences is not to teach which fork to use for which part of the meal, but to create a general antisociability, that this enhanced aggression is or was a mechanism for human reproductive success in our aboriginal competitive group situation.

I’ll repeat the bit from Part Five: the causality goes from ‘discipline to make us civilized humans as opposed to wild animals’ to ‘abuse to make us crazy and violent beyond how we are may have been in the wild,’ the change in the text reflecting a change from the meme to something closer to the reality. Hmmm . . .

I began this blog with the goal of describing a new meme, the ‘abuse meme’ and translating it into the form in which I have the old one, but that’s not going to be it, is it? If I feel I’ve penetrated the first meme, then I am living in the ‘abuse meme’ and I can’t see it, perhaps, or more to the point, memes are self-deceptions. We don’t format our truths in the same way.

So. OK. I think I’ve spent enough time in theory, we get the idea, right? I know, I’ve been trying to play you all to some degree, trying to lure you in with cold language and talk about our distant past, I’ve been trying to get you to buy into the theory structure and hoping not to scare you off with the content. Where the rubber meets the road with this theory things get personal, because nothing can be more personal. Basically, AST is the theory that we are all child abusers, so it’s not going to be instantly popular, but here’s what it means: the whole world is upside-down and backwards.

It means that when we bring the consequences, people get meaner.

It means when we try to spank our kids into “being good” we are hurting them in such a way that they are more likely, not less, to wind up in the criminal justice system.

It means that the “consequences” of the criminal justice system will statistically increase convicts’ antisocial feelings and behaviour rather than ameliorate it.

It means that the more we try to control our children and so ourselves by these means, the more antisocial we become and the further away our ostensible goals of peace and “civilization” get.

It means that somewhere right around half of the time, your “good” kid started the fight, because you made him that kind of good.

Don’t think I think I’m offering something simple or possible here. I’m not clear on what can ever be done about it. It describes a détente, right? The Persians had best keep beating their children if they want them to be tough enough to fight the Americans, who make no secret that they’re beating theirs. So, it’s problematic – but it’s closer to the truth and that’s my social group, truth. It doesn’t keep you warm and there’s no safety in its numbers, but then, it doesn’t require that you kill the members of the other groups either, only their lies and misunderstandings. And this is what I think is the truth, despite that it leaves me out of every human social group on Earth: what is “good” and what is “bad” can change depending who you are and what your circumstances might be. Our consequences – beatings, mostly throughout our long history and pre-history – don’t make our children “good,” unless the sort of good we’re after is what the only evidence shows it to be: antisocial feelings and behaviours, an increased capacity for violence.

To perhaps conclude this series then, upside-down and backwards and all:

We know the obvious truth, deep down, that we are born among family and so, born pre-disposed to loving and caring for those around us. We know, in our heart-of hearts, that Christian original sin or any version of it is part of a meme, a false origin story for our species, that no-one really believes it, yet we live inside the consequences metaphor which would seem to require that we are “better” as hurt, angry, beaten children or adults than we would have otherwise been. Of course, this ‘how we might otherwise have been’ idea is un-thought, it’s in the realm of fantasy, where we don’t have to imagine exactly how we might all be “worse” without our beatings, and of course, where it can be “worse” than any specific thing we might imagine. I would ask this fantasy, the idea of us, even worse: really? Worse than some of the stuff the beaten children of the world have brought us, war, persecution, genocide? What could be worse?

Not rhetorical for a change. What’s worse, the fear is not of different things, those scourges are bad enough for anybody. What would be worse is only that we are too nice, that we are unbeaten and so un-tempered and we suffer the genocide rather than performing it. That is our worry, that is really what this consequences stuff is about. It’s also why America is not signing onto the Rights of the Child and why stopping “corporal punishment” is impossible, it’s game theory, a disarmament thing. Again, a détente, but more to the point, it adds up to a sort of a choice. Our strategy to never suffer genocide is to be geared towards committing it instead, and childhood for humans is an inoculation against passivity. There’s no hope in game theory, and I am not a proponent of it or of the ‘deep roots of war’ narrative. * The hope for me is in this, that I think I’ve at least figured it out, and if we can know that antisocialization is what our consequences gets us, then we are at the start of a long climb – but at least we have a real mountain and not a boundless, unconscious one.

It must be a global thing, and I think any such movement to react to this truth will need to take some good science on, something better than either psychology or the life sciences have come up with on their own. This is me, trying to start that, trying to start something.

 

Jeff

Mar. 16th., 2017

 

*AST suggests a control and a variability in our love of war that is more in line with the modern view of an enmeshed and interactive blend of “nature” and “nurture,” and in its most basic form, AST says we make ourselves more warlike, although it doesn’t postulate our default level of war if we didn’t punish our children.

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Six – Abuse

What I offer as the child-rearing paradigm for groups in conflict is rather bare-bones, I wanted to go after the core of it; I really think to change anything we kind of have to change it all, all the way up from the bottom, because everything is what it is in relation to everything else, and you can’t really change anything if there are connected things that aren’t allowed to change also. Truth to tell though, there are a lot of other ideas around the central metaphor, in supporting roles, like the previously mentioned Christian original sin, one of the theories we have come up with to explain the necessity of the consequences. Others theories attempt to explain why sometimes the causality in the meme pans out and sometimes it does not, ideas about the differences between consequences, discipline, punishment, and abuse.

They’re pretty much all rubbish, I mean, these hypotheses pretty much only make sense within the paradigm, within the paradigm’s special rules of logic.

From AST, all of those things are the same, and so the differences don’t explain anything big. It’s what’s common that explains the big things. The central idea of AST means that the worst, most despised and illegal of the four – abuse – is the operative one anyways, so the differences disappear. Inasmuch as the other three words include a measure of abuse, then that is the degree to which they serve the primary function of antisocializing the recipients and what marks the gradient between them is something secondary or further downstream. It’s not about the education value either, they simply appear to be the euphemisms required by the meme, really bringing no added value, none of the additional specificity we would expect from synonyms.

I hope this point isn’t unavailable to a possible reader who hasn’t bought in yet, one who doesn’t like AST so far and identifies with the consequences, uh, approach, that each metaphor has its application and its prerequisites. Per the consequences meme, the results of our methods are positive things, the kids get ‘better,’ whereas with the AST or the ‘abuse meme’ perhaps, the results of our methods are what negative experiences produce most immediately and simply: stress, and pain, and the need to pass it on. The rule that positive things ensue from ‘discipline’ while negative things follow from ‘abuse’ requires that the two causes be different animals, even opposites, and this arrangement is stressful to support because the two things can appear identical to the naked eye.

So AST says it’s all one thing, abuse, meaning negative experience, by any other name. The other terms, I think we can pick one to reference, let’s say ‘punishment,’ and postulate the meme’s meaning: so what is punishment?

A technical sort of definition is this: it’s the imposition of an aversive by an authorized person to modify a behaviour, but that’s the logical kernel only, the principle of deterrent. What is it we think we’re doing when the deterrent has failed, when we are bringing the consequences? I’m afraid I must seem to be hurling accusations here, because my theory is we don’t really go that far, we don’t really break it down and we don’t really have a concrete idea of the mechanics of it. It’s always one of those things, ‘logical’ within the meme, something like ‘it hurts, so you learn’ – the “so” in there appearing to provide the causation. So how about if we speculate about it now, if we really haven’t before?

I have a pet theory, although  I don’t suppose it’s critical to AST.

We think we’re hobbling our miscreants.

It’s something like it, right, at least analogous? When we specify and administer a punishment for an unwanted behaviour, we seem to think that we are able to inhibit specific behaviours, like we can break a leg to cure running away, we hope we can break something, hurt something to make the behaviour, uh . . . unavailable in the future. Further to that, it’s a mental leg we’re hoping to break – that is to say, something in the brain.

It’s a thought, some idea like that would seem to be behind our discipline – again, if ideas were, or if those ideas were the salient train of thought. It’s not that far off, either, so close that the confusion is pretty forgivable. We do indeed break something in the brain with this abuse, it’s just that the process isn’t as surgical as we hope; we’re breaking more than just the part required for one-off, individual behaviours and I’m afraid the damage is a little more general than that. So, rather than our hoped for conditioning against certain behaviours, what we get is this general antisocialization. This is why antisocialization theory holds the effects of abuse to be the true and evolved function in human lives, because while the ostensible goals of our punishments are often unrealized, the antisocialization is accomplished in a reliable and understandably causative way.

Another way to say it is, if the true point of our discipline is to antisocialize, to make us all meaner soldiers, then abuse has always been the point and no distinction need be drawn between the “positive” practices of discipline and consequences and the “negative” experiences of abuse. By AST, it’s all abuse, and so we have crossed the line from nurturing (prosocializing) to damage (antisocializing) with the first pat on the bum. From a parenting perspective, while there is plenty of work to do, the question of what is discipline and what is abuse disappears. Truth is simplicity, in a sense, sometimes. I know I’ve been pussyfooting around it, but that’s the message.

When we punish our kids to make them better, better means antisocial, pre-configured for conflict, that’s the kind of better “consequences” gets us. When we bring it too hard or our kids just get some sort of unlucky, the damage we see, the madness, or crime, violence, self-harm, etc. that we see is not something going unforeseeably wrong, something happening in a new direction, this is simply more antisocialization than we wanted, simply too much of this “good” thing.

It’s simpler, when you get it, almost a single force or a single principle to replace two sorts of knowledge we’ve had to compartmentalize to get on with, the apparently opposing “principles” of the socializing influences of structure and discipline and the damaging influences of abuse. And it seems pretty straightforward what we’d do if we saw it, if we really let it sink in.

Jeff

Mar. 11th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Five. Unintended Consequences

OK, the blog I decided was part four for logical order, I wrote that a month or two ago, but I wrote part three over the last few days. Things took a sudden turn for the dark there, I’m afraid, so if you saw the one about what we think we think about ourselves before and have also just come here with part three freshly in mind, I apologize for it, especially for the emotional slap at the end. That was uncalled for, but what can I say? I’m not editing it out, it’s me. I am uncalled for. It probably cost me most of my potential buyers there, though. I don’t know why I do it, why I must make listening to me even harder than it is, why I so badly need not only to be appreciated, but at my worst.

I’m sorry. This one will be different, I think.

I know I’ve turned the common wisdom over with this, the causality goes from ‘discipline to make us civilized humans as opposed to wild animals’ to ‘abuse to make us crazy and violent beyond how we are may have been in the wild,’ and sure, that’s on the dark side of the spectrum, but let’s turn it over a bit, try some different angles. AST is a giving the devil his due sort of idea, but what if we take it on and then argue, see if this devilish idea can survive giving God his due.

I’ve said the point of human adult on child violence isn’t that the child learns better how to live indoors and not break dishes, that it is rather the effects of abuse that made us tougher and more successful than the other apes and other human species, but we do mange to get on indoors and not break things, and we do show more emotional range than may be required if war and conflict were all there was to being human, don’t we? So the existence of the meme may guarantee the ‘consequences’ get dished out, but looking at it the other way ‘round, the sense of the meme kind of insures that we spend a lot of time driving our kids and speaking to them, giving instructions and commands. From AST, in the coldest, economic, evolutionary psychology terms you could say these are primarily excuses for the abuse that we need to compete with the abusive neighbors and their kids – but all those lessons, perhaps a sort of unintended consequence of our warrior code was that all that teaching and talking took on a life of its own. All that learning may have been of less immediate, survival level importance than the antisocialization lessons, but we have studied and we have learned because by the metaphor by which we are raised, we know what happens when we don’t get our homework done.

AST describes the same world, but the causation is flipped: they didn’t give us the strap to teach us math, they challenged us with math so they could give us the strap! Bad news is, we got the more visceral, biological lesson, and we’ve been antisocialized. Good news is, we learned math. Oh, no, I know, it sounds dark again, and just backwards, same world with a bad attitude, but it’s not. From the existing place, the metaphor of consequences, things don’t make sense. From the existing place, the metaphor of consequences, all we understand is the part about the math and we don’t understand what it is we do and how we create ourselves in a violent vision of how we need to be. It means we can never really understand abuse or conflict, and that’s a bit of a big deal. I’ll try to make the case in the next part. For now, we’ll let this one stand as having said that our human civilization seems to be a secondary effect, a sort of unintended consequence of our self-antisocializing ways, and of course, I don’t think anyone thought becoming technical and civilized was a goal, I don’t think Bill Hicks’ version has been positively peer reviewed. I think science assumes our bizarre behaviour to be an unintended consequence of something or other – so maybe it’s of this antisocializing thing.

It’s not out of line with the general idea that we are the most complex challenge we face and so that it is we that have been the evolutionary pressure that produced this large bubble of a brain and skull, is it?

 

Jeff

March 10th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Two

If we consider what I’ve labelled as the ‘consequences meme’ that captures the most common parenting methods and attitudes and try to glean what goals it may serve, the first and most basic thing offered by it appears to be control. Here’s the way I’ve been expressing it so far:

. . . that story, about what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences . . .

Clearly, whatever must happen, whatever the consequences, and considering that it won’t happen by itself, the theme is control. If we bring the consequences, the meme says we get things the way we want, right? That’s the meme, the story we tell ourselves, and the form of the meme may be sane – sane, meaning a calculation that is possible to make, not that the answer is correct, only that we are not attempting to divide by zero or something – and that suffices, again, within this metaphor and using the metaphor’s special rules of logic. One way the power of the meme is evident is that when real, specific things are inserted into the form –

. . . this story, about eating this food and how a pat on the butt makes it happen and about how this food might never get eaten without that pat on the butt . . .

– that clear, true examples that prove the meme are relevant, evidence for, while clear, true examples that contradict it somehow lack the relevance to change the conversation. Whether a given consequence works out or not, that is success or failure of our consequences, of our attempted application of the meme, but the meme has accomplished its goals if we simply still believe it in either case: a meme is a bias. It’s almost the application of science, or big data, because the meme insures that we are not always changing our minds with every situation, that we stay the course regardless of ‘anecdotal’ individual experiences that would appear to disprove the idea. Almost, you’ll note. It’s analogous to science, but the difference is the criteria: again, the meme serves our goals, not necessarily science or truth.

The function of this meme in our lives would appear to be to give us a sense of control, one that is bolstered against our experiences of things often being out of our control. The function of that sense of control is that we bring the consequences and trust in them implicitly, often to the point that we don’t monitor the results and don’t adjust our methods. The function of the consequences?

That is the mystery, the truth behind the metaphor, and the basis for a better one. To describe that, I’m going to back up, take a different tack. Not a secret, I’ve said it a few times this year, but I want to let this out in bite size pieces. Metaphors are too big too deal with in one sitting.

 

Jeff

Mar. 5th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part One

I can’t commit to one thing or another.

Art or science, I mean. It’s a self image thing, I know I don’t have the education for science, but I also can’t compete artistically, so . . . so I’m afraid I abuse them both, using one as a hedge against the other, doing disservice to all. We’re all special, though, right? I like to imagine that I rule in my field – it’s just that my field doesn’t, what’s the word, exist. If it did, I figure I’d be the go to guy, the SME, subject matter expert, and science or art be damned, just so long as someone listens to me. I can’t tell. Was that about even, half funny, half pathetic?

At this age, having studied this non-thing for much of my adult life, I have at last produced at least a name for it: Antisocialization Theory, or AST.

Having said that, perhaps I’m not using the term ‘theory’ in it’s most concrete way. It’s more like an attitude, or an environment in which to theorize, a framework. Now, considering the incumbent attitude or framework around the issues that AST addresses, namely child discipline and child abuse, criminal justice and social engineering, we may wish to de-loft AST even more, because what AST would replace isn’t scientific theory either, or even a loose collection of scientific observations, really, it’s only a meme, or a loose collection of memes. What AST offers is perhaps not quite science, but a new metaphor, and considering the traction hard science lacks in the areas looked after by social science, a new metaphor is possibly the better and more powerful thing anyway. The old metaphor is certainly powerful, if not in its success then at least in its failure. What am I defining as our present metaphor about child discipline and child abuse, criminal justice and social engineering?

Talk to me about spanking, or if not, about “consequences,” that is the current story we tell ourselves.

I’ve heard it so many times online and IRL and I’ve argued against it from a powerless, ghost in the machine sort of a stance for so long that I can’t bear to type it for you. Go ahead, you tell me. I’m afraid if I say it I won’t be fair about it. But that story, about what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences – I knew it, see? I’ve got an attitude about it, I’m sorry – that is the current metaphor among proponents of any sort of discipline of children. That is the prevailing metaphor for parenting. If it’s not where you live, then never mind, consider yourself exempted.

I’m not sure if that demographic would enjoy their central parenting idea described as a meme, or even ‘not scientific,’ so I’ve decided to try to make the case that one, metaphors are all we have in these areas, and two, that as such they are sort of irrefutable in the sense that general rules of logic do not really work within them, that these sorts of schools of thought or social constructs are specialized sets of logical rules for the mode of operation established through the meme. The point is one I feel every time I make some point that seems bold and logical to me and see it crash unheard and unnoticed on the rock of the old paradigm. I’ve felt it from the dullest and the brightest folks imaginable, my ‘logic’ and yours cannot hear one another. Yes, me too: the “consequences” story lacks causality for me, the conclusions simply don’t follow. Having said that . . .

Despite that we all must think we’re right, that we are dependent upon our own brains and faculties and so there is no percentage in thinking we’re not up to it, the overwhelming numbers of people living the consequences narrative arrayed against me in this clash of metaphors have convinced me to treat it as a fair contest, a level playing field. They – you – might be right. Or, it may simply be a matter of that metaphors aren’t right or wrong, they’re just preferable or not, they’re just taking us closer to our goals or not – in which case it’s the goal that is the sanity test for the meme. The point of that sentence was that reality is not a check for the meme; who needs a metaphor if it’s identical to reality? Metaphors are for when the reality is either unknown or unfriendly to our goals.

In the case of the prevailing child-rearing metaphor, I think I can lay out clearly that it’s the latter, that in other contexts, when speaking from the other of our two faces about it, we do indeed know this reality. That only one side of our personality knows it means that one side is at odds with the goal. I want to leave us with this question for now, having spent this entire blog merely trying to set up the context for it. Again, for this meme, fill in the generalities for yourselves –

. . . that story, about what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences . . .

 – what is the goal?

I know, everybody knows, but please, indulge me. Write your answers down (use the reply button, I promise not to be confrontational about it) if you’re following me, if you’re following this train of thought. It is far too easy to rationalize our way out of this little trap I’m setting when it all takes place between and so behind our ears, in the privacy of our biologically motivated minds.

Damnit, look at that, will you. The artist has chloroformed the philosopher and taken over again, apparently dosing himself in the process. Sorry folks, all I can do is switch off his microphone. Next time.

Jeff

March 5th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Four. Human Nature – or Let Me Tell You What We Think of Us

It’s a problem when nouns are provided as explanations, generally, or at least it’s a problem for me.

When we search for an answer, it’s a cause for something that we seek – and we might think a ‘cause’ would be something that happens, not so much something that simply exists – but often what is given is only a complex sounding thing. If it fails to illuminate, sometimes it can mean that we don’t yet understand the noun, even to the point that we don’t understand that it is one, that the answer we are offered is not a verb, not an action, a motion, or a process at all.  Of course, processes have names and can be referenced as nouns, but therein lies plenty of opportunity for obfuscation, and a certain percentage of listeners will never stop someone to ask them what the word means. History has a list of such answers, notorious to the modern atheist, scientific mind, and they include royalty, divinity, infallibility, destiny, fate . . . religious sort of “things” like that. Closer to today, one might list soul, self, mind, morality . . . today I’d like to start with ‘consciousness,’ although it’s not really the topic, because it goes to our natures, because, ‘consciousness’ of what, exactly?

I’ll be honest. This isn’t my first time through this document, and in the end I’m not debunking consciousness or our natures: My real target noun is ‘aggression.’ I wanted to say that once, but let’s leave it in the background. By the end of this, all will become clear.

Humans have consciousness; this is a fairly recent fallback position for the common sentiment that was once perhaps that humans have souls, or divinity, along with the idea that we alone of animals have it. The idea has failed, fallen to human testing of apes, dolphins, crows and maybe more animals, tests that show these creatures pass tests that human babies don’t or something. But I don’t disagree generally; we have an outsized share of it, probably in all of its aspects. If consciousness means awareness of self, then I imagine that the less lofty sounding aspects of it might be attention paid to self or self-involvement. Half of what we do is navel gazing – well, half of what some of us do is. Of course, when we’re looking back through history, anything there is to read came from the sort of introspective person that does. Half of the history of human thought consists of navel gazing, of people wondering just what it is that people are and just what it is we should be doing.

It’s a question that there is no getting around.

If you’re ever wondering what to do with yourself, or are given any sort of choice, then it helps that you know what you are – clearly, that is the function of ‘consciousness.’ Having no concept of one’s self could get us into all sorts of trouble, even fights we don’t win. So consciousness is certainly a human trait, but not solely or absolutely, and neither is consciousness absolute when we see it, either: we may have consciousness, but we do not have full self-knowledge, meaning we know enough about ourselves not to wrestle grizzly bears, but not so much that we know what to do with ourselves in our spare time. I think we all agree, determining what human nature is and the search for self- knowledge and consciousness are one and the same. We’re a social animal, we have a lot of policy sort of decisions to make for one another, and so it matters what human nature is, it matters just what it is that we are. Wait for it, though . . .

. . . failing that, it matters just what it is that we think we are.

And it has failed so far, so what we think we are is going to be the best we have to work with. Consensus regarding what we are has failed at least, so this is the state of things. To the degree that we behave consciously and rationally at least, we behave predicated on what it is we think we are. We behave largely biologically and tribally, and unconsciously to be sure, but to the extent that we plan our behaviour, to the creation and evolution of public policy, laws and institutions – and to the creation of parenting books –  in that much, we base our choices on what we think we are, on what we perceive to be human nature.

No surprises there, right?

Some think we are as God made us, some as evolution has sculpted us, some think we are born loving and good, some that we are naturally selfish and aggressive, some that we are unformed until the world forms us.

If I’ve forgotten anyone, I’m sorry.

My experience living and reading in the largely Christian West combined with my interest in punishment-free childrearing led me to think the general consensus in those regards was this: we think some dilute version of Christian original sin, or that evolution means children are untamed, and so we spend a great deal of energy controlling, deterring and punishing children in our efforts to “civilize” them. It was cultural, I thought; most folks have never heard of Augustine or original sin, but it was difficult for me to understand the control and punishment of human children without postulating some negative default condition that the adults were combatting, without thinking that the parents seemed to be postulating one. That idea satisfied me for a time; it was true enough, close enough for television, or rather, psychology.

It wasn’t close enough for science though.

Again, most Western folks don’t know or care for Augustine or Paul (neither do I, don’t get me wrong), and at any rate we were all sinners in the Old Testament as well, right from the start: God created the heavens, and saw that it was good, the earth, and saw that it was good, the beasts, birds and fishes and saw that they were good. Then God created man, woman and knowledge, and saw that it was not so good, for the rest of the book! My apologies if that is not funny . . . it only means that at least the Jews and the Muslims will have some version of ‘all humans are sinners’ in their lives too, not just the Christians.

Notwithstanding, parents don’t speak in the same terms as we navel gazers do. When I can say ‘we beat our children because we think if we don’t they will naturally turn out wild or evil’ in the context of parenting, I can get away with it, but of course, chaos theory rules all and the real truth is very different. I was wrong. It’s nothing like original sin, not even close. That’s what we think we think, but we really don’t. So let’s back that up. So if we did think that, if we did think that we assume our children to be biased towards wildness or evil, and so we try to discourage that with deterrents and punishments, then there may be more to discover regarding that narrative.

First, when did we start to think it, and why?

Leaving aside the religious believers for whom there is no evolutionary past but only a moment of creation for the moment, it would seem to be a story that requires the trappings of civilization like possessions or human hazards like fires and weapons, reasons why the children cannot be wild and uncontrolled. However, like many guesses about the past, it’s bound to be a chicken and egg kind of a thing: does this story have us as a self-hating ape that beats its children because it thinks they’re evil, evolving with time and becoming human? Or do we postulate a sort of reverse evolution, where we found ourselves evolved, super-complex human adults whose babies still appeared to stubbornly arrive as wild little apes and so needed to be civilized individually, by force if necessary?

The first option would seem to have support from Sapolsky and his baboons, but the final many years of his Keekorok troop might seem to prove the idea itself as at least not always true, perhaps lending weight to my idea that we only think some such thing by default. (An accident wiped out the ruling cabal of alpha males and the troop became far more prosocial, even making converts of male baboons that moved in.) There certainly seems to be an entrenched system of abuse that creates and supports baboon social structure and hierarchy usually; clearly primate abuse predates humanity. Most people don’t know much about that, though, so although it may be part of a real scientific explanation, it probably has no bearing on what human parents generally think. I don’t suppose anyone has taken the next step in this train of thought and no-one has perhaps asked that question before: did we evolve from a punishing ape, or did humans invent organized punishment? If no-one has considered the origin of this human behaviour before, perhaps that is a clue that it’s a behaviour we rationalize from our culturally Christian (or culturally Jewish or culturally Muslim) selves, perhaps we are lazily falling into seeing our child-rearing from the religious POV where it didn’t begin, it simply is, as though it always was.

I don’t think anyone takes this model this far, but if pressed, I imagine any advocate for it would think this human practice is a modern one: for the religious, everything is some sort of modern, and for the evolutionist, perhaps they think they are contending with their children’s wild and primal natures, perhaps they assume that we’re born a little too natural. It gets murky fast, when you don’t trust yourself, when you have to guess at your own motivations. Of course, we’ started this discussion saying that our very natures are unknown, so in this conversation we have to admit that our motivations are also mysteries. So as to when did we begin to think it?

I’m afraid it’s stumped me within this paradigm.

For the ‘why’ we must examine the other side of the coin. A discussion of what we think our natures are perhaps requires some look into the other concept, what we think nurture is. Why did we begin to think there was something bad about us by default, and what made us think we could change it?

First of all, it’s a positive sounding word, nurture, but that isn’t the primary meaning. I think nurture is best stated as the software side of our house, that it isn’t concerned with hardware and biology but thought and speech, with what we think and what we do. To what extent our lives and inner lives affect us and our choices: that is the nurture principle, at least the version of nurture that seems to be opposed to any notions of hardwired traits and behaviours in the classic old debate. It’s a little jarring to say and hear, but when we are beating our children, we think we are operating in the nurture sphere, hoping to change minds and therefore behaviour.

In the march of scientific progress, nurture is taking a beating these days. Nature in the form of biology is showing all manner of visible proofs, while nurture cannot seem to show any. Nurture is safe, of course; it can’t be destroyed, because we are all aware of some time in our lives (perhaps daily) where we learned something and therefore changed our behaviour. We know it’s a force within our own selves and our lives, so we can’t very well imagine that teaching our children has no effect; it’s another article and another subject, but those who suggest any version of ‘nurture is not real,’ such as ‘parenting doesn’t matter’ are just plain wrong, as Steven Pinker said too. It’s not a bluff. I have the arguments ready, but I’m trying to stick to talking about what we think, and what we think we think, not about scientific truths at this juncture. We may get there, but let’s not hold our breaths.

(Now that I’m learning a little biology, now that ghost in the machine ideas are working their way out of my thoughts,  of course there really is no division to be made between our hardware platforms and our software, turns out, thought, speech, emotions – these are all physical phenomena, neurochemistry. That slides the entire nurture world back under the nature umbrella in reality. Nurture is really maybe just post-birth nature, meaning the environment or just simply the world, but it’s still a useful distinction in one way: at least we’re highlighting the difference between the things we do and the things we’re actually trying to do.  We can still talk about it. Words are tools to hold things, not the things themselves.)

The nurturing idea, as it applies to childrearing is deeply set. I find myself casting about for a better, more manipulative way to say this, so I’d better go the other direction and de-fang it instead: I have the sense that we must have felt like we proved it to ourselves at some point, and we seem, as Judith Rich Harris said, unable to seriously question it.

OK now. Here’s where I hope I stop parroting other folks.

If the nurture assumption is hard to shake, if it seems self-evident or we have the sense I suggest, that it’s been proved already, then the narrative, our story should account for it. How do we imagine we proved it?

I mean, nurture generally, not a question. I think we’ve all told our kids not to leap into traffic and most of them didn’t, so it’s case closed, great job. I’m looking for something more specific, though, something that would cause this division in our minds, some experience of ours that places nurture somehow in opposition to our natures, or nature generally, perhaps – at least something to justify this endless, insoluble argument. Plus, of course, I’m talking about childrearing, our guesses about our own natures and how those impact our childrearing. That particular aspect of nurture, literal nurturing, childrearing, complete with deterrents and punishments seems to be something we don’t ponder, something we consider time-honoured and proven, so again: proven how?

Well, to back up again just a little, what have we proven today regarding parenting? Amazing to me that any answer this short could be true: nothing good, literally.

Of course, that needs a little explaining.

As so lengthily and painfully pointed out by Rich Harris and others, parental influence is impossible to detect in people’s adult personalities. We think that half of the variability of our traits is genetic and about half cultural or environmental, but that almost none of the environmental side is attributable to parents or parental efforts. I have questions, like is it personality parents affect or something else, but for now, I’ll go with it: ongoing and historical efforts to demonstrate parents’ influence have turned up squat. We keep trying, because as I pointed out before the nurture principle can’t be non-existent, but so far it hasn’t worked out, there is zero scientific evidence for parental influence.

One assumes that parental efforts are for positive things, though, so perhaps it’s fair to say that positive parental influence hasn’t shown up in the lab. Negative influences from parents, however, the effects of abuse or neglect, that is another matter, there are mountains of evidence for that. So not only do we have no evidence for anything good our parents do for us, but a world of proof for the bad. The evidences for negative outcomes correlated with physical punishment and abuse are myriad and robust – and it’s mostly family stuff, so we even have decades of genetic data, it’s not going to be useless for the lack of that either. So: zero proof of positive influence from anything parents do, deterrents, punishments and abuse included, as contrasted with all of the evidence pointing to the negative environmental power of some of those same things. There are a lot of very nice parents out there – and no evidence of their good influence, only of the damages incurred by the less nice parts of the children’s lives. So perhaps we ask ourselves this regarding the plot we are pitching ourselves.

If we’re telling ourselves that we believe that without our nurturing, our children will be bad or wild, then how do we explain to ourselves that we can continue to believe it when we see that the science says all we can do is mess them up? It seems pretty counter-intuitive; I mean, what kind of idiots do we take ourselves for? How do we explain it to ourselves except by using the obvious strategy of simple cognitive dissonance, I mean, of course? I realize, what else can we do with that information but ignore it, live with the conflict pending further discovery?

Are we there yet? I’ve lost track, what was the question again? Oh yes, why would we think that we think children are default some sort of bad and that we do what we do to make them better?

Whoops, that was close. I almost said it that time. I’ve tried to make the point that this proposition is part and parcel of the self-evident nurture idea, and that the nurture assumption is so strong, that we must think we proved it. I then wondered how so, and stated that we have not, even today proved it in a positive sense, but that we see the proof daily of the negative power of what adults and parents can do. Interestingly, today, this proof of the negative power of parenting is split off, and it’s become a popular meme for the biologists to say that parenting doesn’t matter. Tell that to abuse victims, is my answer. But still, somehow, this proof is not a proof today. “Parenting” is defined as a positive influence – but stubbornly refuses to show up like that in the testing.

Perhaps this very phenomenon, abuse and damage was our proof of the nurture principle in parenting in the beginning though, perhaps there was a time when beating our children was new or rare, and it was these real world effects that proved to us that what we do matters. I have an idea, learned in grade school, that the most beaten of the children are out there beating the crap out of the less beaten ones, and I don’t think that needs a lot of mental lawyering to reconcile with the statistics of abuse. I didn’t see the advantage of it, the tough families in the city where I grew up. Sure, they beat everyone and if one couldn’t then his older brother could, but I figured they’d all wind up in prison, live short, thug lives – maybe in a more primal, aboriginal situation though, you want your family group to be the ones who win the fights around the neighborhood.

If so, if this was perhaps the first thing we ever tried to beat our children into doing – going out and terrorizing the neighbors – that works! The statistics of abuse tell us that that is the one thing that beatings do succeed at teaching, so if that was our maiden voyage into child-sculpting, then the first test worked perfectly . . . perhaps that was our proof. And – fair enough, sort of. That may place the timing of the development of this behaviour before modern times, because we have wiped out at least four other homos in the last fifty thousand years and those are only the ones where we’ve found the bodies.

So, with that perspective, let’s review that sentence, where I almost gave it away:

Why would we think that we think children are default some sort of bad and that we do what we do to make them some sort of better?

Just a few more little tweaks: it turns out that the ‘sort of bad’ that makes sense of it is sociability, that ‘what we do’ is beat them far more regularly than the other animals, and the ‘sort of better’ we’re talking about is meaner, tougher, being the sort that wins fights. So again, one more time:

Why would we think children are nice and sweet (which is a sort of bad in a warring sort of aboriginal environment) and so we beat them (which humans do a lot) to make them tough, mean and nasty (a sort of better in a competitive world of male-bonded primate troops as well as traditional human societies)?

Because that doesn’t clash with everything else we know about violence and abuse today, for starters. Because human (and all mammal) babies are clearly sweet and loving, for good reasons, they’re helpless. Because, isn’t that what your dad told you behind the shed? He was toughening you up, and Dad was a lot closer to the aboriginal, biological truth than the authors of parenting books.

Again, this is a conversation with too many layers: I’m not saying we just aren’t mean enough by default for life on this planet, only that we think so, and so because this is our core belief, we beat our children to make sure they’re as mean and tough as the neighbors, who we assume are beating theirs.

I really am not advocating for a version of human nature, my own version, or some Noble Savage, hippy-dippy version where we would all be sweet as pie and it would be the end of war and strife if we only stopped creating all of our species’ aggression, or any other one. I am advocating for a version of a core belief, advocating for what I think it is we believe or believed about what our nature is. I may be saying that abuse makes us mean (and crazy. Did I say that? Crazy, too), but I haven’t stated what I think our default level of mean, sans abuse, may have been – except that to say, whatever it is, however aggressive an ape we might be if left unabused, that with abuse, we are more so. I am saying that this core belief, that we think we are nicer than we need to be, has exponentially more power than the other story, the idea that we are born overly wild or aggressive, to bring a good deal of our thinking in line with reality, because this story makes sense of our rather unique punishing ways. Not only that, but I’m saying that this story’s genesis chapter seems to provide the proof that the nurture side of the old argument has been lacking in the minds of the biologists, because it is nothing to show that the power of a parent to alter a child is undeniable on the dark side of the parenting coin.

Our true natures, though?

I think we’ve been looking at it all upside down since perhaps sometime in the middle ages and sideways since there have been some number of comfortable, secure (OK, rich) people, like since ownership and possessions beyond your flint and spear, and so I think we haven’t had much of a chance at this puzzle, in fact, we probably haven’t made a true start yet. With this better first guess, I’m hoping we can make a better start. There is a ton of epigenetic information coming to light, much of it regarding abuse, and I think this better autobiography may help us to give it all another level of meaning.

It doesn’t mean we’re uncovering a core belief of ours that is objectively true, only that this is what we think is true. The difference is our response to the first perceived problem of our default nastiness – the dishing out of punishments to change it, makes no sense, while our response to the second perceived problem, meaning our perceived lack of aggression – the dishing out of punishments and other abuse, makes perfect sense and is corroborated in every way in many other contexts. I don’t hope that everyone will find this as revelatory as I do, but there are a few implications.

The original sin idea is dead wrong, backwards. We don’t actually think we’re inherently bad. In fact, we structure our entire lives around a core belief that we are loving and friendly by default and we spend our lives trying to rectify that perceived situation. Yes, I mean child-rearing and “discipline” today, still doing what it did for our ancestors far better than what we hope it might do for us.

With all this mad, modern culture around us, we may think we have to guess or deduce our natures, or even discover our core beliefs regarding our natures, and this has been the answer we tell one another, or at least this is the answer I was born into, among the great unwashed of poor white North American culture in the latter half of the twentieth century, this opaque, plausibly deniable sort of Christian original sin. It’s going to be more difficult to picture how we could make such an unconscious error in a more primal state, so much closer to or still in the natural state, predators all around . . . if beatings calmed and civilized our children, one would think that would be a deadly mutation in rough, violent nature and would be quickly selected out.

I’m only saying why I can’t imagine our usual narrative playing out at all, so that as far as I can see there just may be no sensible when or why to it.

That answer again, that we figure we’re born uncivilized and they try to beat the culture into us, masks the true one, the deeper and nastier one, that it is the actual effect of our punishments and abuse that we experience, and the actual effects that make it a selected for behaviour. Being the scariest phenotype possible has been known to have its reproductive advantages. We’re like the Alpha Male species in a tournament sort of genus and I don’t think there’s any denying that our genes are out-competing those of the rest of the great apes.

This logic makes this deeper core belief at least sane if not correct, because it describes a true function with expected results. The core belief we thought we had, some form of original sin is not our true belief, and neither is it objectively true, while the core belief exposed here – that we could be meaner – is borne out by all the evidence of abuse’s negative outcomes, ‘meanness’ and violence being the point of half of them.

All of the available evidence points to the truth of that, that we could be meaner, who hasn’t watched people grow up and get meaner as they do? That’s called normal development. In the other sense, however, as in ‘I could lose a few pounds,’ that we should be meaner, perhaps half of us can’t imagine thinking about our babies today in that way, but I don’t think we really could see ourselves the other way either, believing that beige sort of original sin and that violence was the cure for it.

It makes for a bit of irony. If you’ve come this far, you may as well follow me all the way to farce: what we have here, what we are, is an adult that tells himself he thinks his children are born to be bad, so he beats the sweet, helpless little dears until they are violent enough to function as an effective soldier for the troop while telling himself he’s the agent of all that’s good and proper, the defender of civilization and his babies were the bad ones!

It’s pretty much that we’ve just gotten “good” and “bad” all mixed up, all switched around. I hope that this is a step towards an improvement in our self-awareness, that the “good” we create with our discipline is perhaps not the sort of good we’re all looking for anymore.   In fact, in many ways, biology (behaviour?) doesn’t care what we think. It’s still working, like it must have since it began: we beat our children, and we win every conflict we enter into, at least some human does, and it doesn’t matter in that function whether we know why we do it or not. All that talk about why we got whooped, that was for the other narrative, the false one. Really it’s to make berserkers of us.

All of the evidence says so.

 

Jeff

Jan. 20th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true